Submitted: January 14, 2019
from United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Arkansas - Little Rock
SMITH, Chief Judge, COLLOTON and ERICKSON, Circuit Judges.
J. Saguto, an inmate, walked off federal prison grounds in
Forrest City, Arkansas, and absconded. He was apprehended and
subsequently charged with escape and conspiracy to escape.
Saguto conditionally pleaded guilty and now appeals, arguing
that the district court erred by failing to recognize a Sixth
Amendment speedy trial violation, that his counsel's
performance was constitutionally deficient, and that the
ultimate sentence imposed upon him is substantively
unreasonable. We disagree and affirm.
January 3, 2015, Saguto was in the sixth month of an 84-month
sentence for conspiracy to commit money laundering and
conspiracy to commit bank fraud. On that day, with the
assistance of his non-incarcerated girlfriend, Andrea
Mansfield, Saguto escaped from prison. Apparently, Saguto
simply walked off the property when nobody was looking.
Saguto and Mansfield were caught together about a day later,
and he was charged with escape and conspiracy to escape.
months elapsed between Saguto's indictment on January 6,
2015, and his conditional guilty plea in November 2016.
Events occurring during that time span delayed Saguto's
trial. Saguto and Mansfield were arraigned on February 26,
2015; trial was set for March 30, 2015. The court initially
determined to try Saguto and Mansfield together. The court
later severed the cases. But before the severance, Mansfield
twice moved to continue trial, pushing the trial date to
April 11, 2016. On February 8, 2016, the district court
granted a motion by Saguto's counsel to delay the trial
further to enable Saguto to receive a mental evaluation.
Saguto reluctantly consented to the motion after agreeing
that it could be helpful to his defense.
March 2, 2016, Saguto wrote a letter to the district court
airing grievances regarding his representation by appointed
counsel. He stated that he believed his Sixth Amendment
speedy trial rights were being violated because he had not
been tried yet, and he also expressed dissatisfaction with
his attorney's general performance. On March 7, 2016, the
district court delayed trial by granting a motion enabling
the mental health services provider additional time to
complete Saguto's psychiatric evaluation due to
Saguto's late arrival to the facility. Because of the
longer evaluation period, Saguto's counsel moved for a
continuance of the trial date. The district court granted the
March 31, 2016 motion and reset the trial for November 14,
October 20, 2016, Saguto's counsel, at Saguto's
behest, filed a motion to be relieved, asserting
irreconcilable differences between the two. The district
court denied the motion, finding insufficient justification
to change counsel just three weeks before trial. Saguto
followed up with a pro se motion to appoint new counsel on
October 25. In the motion, he reiterated his claim that his
current counsel was violating his Sixth Amendment rights and
contended that he had requested that counsel cease seeking
continuances as far back as February 2016. The district court
denied the pro se motion. Then, the next day, Saguto's
attorney filed a motion for reconsideration on her motion to
be relieved as counsel because Saguto stopped communicating
with her entirely.
the November 14 trial date approaching, the district court
held a hearing on the two pending motions on November 4,
2016. Following the hearing, the district court denied the
motion for appointment of new counsel. The court found that
current counsel could be effective despite differences with
Saguto. The court concluded that appointment of new counsel
would only delay trial further. The district court then
permitted Saguto to make an oral record regarding his Sixth
Amendment claims. Five days later, on November 9, 2016,
Saguto conditionally pleaded guilty to the pending charges.
Based on continued concerns about relations between Saguto
and his counsel, in March 2017, the district court appointed
new counsel for the sentencing process.
January 24, 2018, the district court sentenced Saguto. At the
hearing, the district court adopted the presentence
investigation report (PSR), which suggested a Guidelines
range of 12-18 months' imprisonment. In its sentencing
colloquy, the court noted the need to deter prison escapes.
And after addressing all the relevant § 3553(a) factors
and hearing from the parties, the district court sentenced
Saguto to 36 months' imprisonment to be run consecutive
to his existing term.
makes three arguments on appeal. First, he contends that the
time lapse between his indictment and guilty plea violated
his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. Second, he
asserts his counsel provided constitutionally deficient
representation by not raising the speedy trial issue with the
district court. And finally, he argues the ...